The hustle and bustle of sending your kids back to school can be stressful. Here are eight tips to help you stay stress-free and prepare for the coming school year.
Back-to-school stress doesn't just affect your kids; it takes its toll on you, too. Follow our tips and discover how you can remain calm and stress-free during this hectic yet exciting time of year.
1. Shop strategically.
With back-to-school commercials hitting our TV screens earlier and earlier each year, it's easy to fall prey to the anxiety that they generate. "People end up overbuying," says Beverly Beuermann-King, a stress and wellness specialist with Worksmart Livesmart.
"Your kids don't really need five new outfits; buy only what your kids really need." Figure out what they've outgrown, then determine what they need to fill in those gaps and purchase accordingly. It shouldn't be a grand – and painfully expensive – shopping event.
When it comes to shopping for supplies, you might want to wait until after the first day of school, when supply lists are often sent home. "Sometimes waiting helps you be a bit more economical," says Beuermann-King.
2. Get everyone on a schedule.
Kids find comfort in routine, and having stress-free kids makes for stress-free parents. By creating a schedule for doing homework, going to bed, waking up, eating breakfast and taking showers, you can make the daily routine less chaotic for everyone.
Beuermann-King recommends getting your children involved in making the schedule. "Having your kids decide on the routine will be less frustrating than you telling them that they have a certain amount of time in the morning or that they have to get their homework done as soon as they come home," she says.
By adding their input, your kids will be less frazzled and more co-operative – and you'll be less stressed as a result.
3. Plan ahead.
To eliminate disorder at home, designate where school bags and supplies will be stored and stock plenty of lunch options. "Look for ways to simplify life as opposed to complicating it," says Beuermann-King.
Your kids can put away their own belongings and easily find them the next day. They can even pack their own lunches, saving you time and anxiety.
4. Make time for breakfast.
You tell your kids that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but do you follow your own advice? Eating breakfast before you head out the door will stave off hunger pains, boost your energy and help you keep your focus for wherever the day takes you.
"Your mood goes up and down the same way your kids' [moods] do when it comes to food and energy," says Beuermann-King. Skip sugary cereals and carbohydrate-laden meals. Instead, opt for a protein-rich breakfast that includes eggs, oatmeal or turkey bacon.
When kids are enrolled in too many after-school activities, it creates a one-way ticket to parental overload. Select one or two activities for your child that won't wear you out with driving duties. It's also really helpful to lean on fellow parents.
"Don't be afraid to ask for help and carpool with other parents. You'll end up driving a few times every few weeks and it will cut down on travel time," says Beuermann-King.
6. Arrange 'me time.'
Zap back-to-school stress with mandatory parental down time. Whether you use the break to sleep in, have date night or curl up with the latest bestseller, reserving time for yourself is key to restoring vitality and alleviating stress.
Just be sure to schedule the time into your week and stick to it. "We usually give up our 'me time' first," says Beuermann-King. "One of the quotes that I like is: 'How thin can I spread myself before I no longer exist?' We're so used to taking care of everybody else that we forget to take care of ourselves."
Don't forget your own needs. You can't look after others if you don't look after yourself.
Having a hearty giggle is a great stress buster. Studies have shown that laughter crushes cortisol and epinephrine, our brain's stress hormones. It also boosts our immune systems.
"As adults, many of us have lost the ability to laugh and have fun," says Beuermann-King. "Make sure you laugh and enjoy." Keep a file of humorous email jokes or photos that you can turn to in a pinch, or watch funny movies and TV shows to reap the healthy benefits of laughter.
8. Get quality sleep.
"Two-thirds of Canadians are sleep-deprived, and they're not getting good-quality sleep. It's the only time when your body repairs itself, so if you're not sleeping long enough or getting the right kind of sleep, then your body is already in a deficit and can't deal with stress," says Beuermann-King.
Aim for between seven to nine hours of sleep and cut out caffeine before bedtime. During that time, you should also forgo watching TV, exercising and working on brain-taxing activities such as managing your finances.
Your brain needs to slow down before bedtime so that you can fall asleep quickly and snooze soundly.
Rice vermicelli is a type of rice noodle used in many Asian dishes. It is packaged dry, can be found in most regular grocery stores and can be eaten either hot or cold in soups, salads and stir fried with vegetables, meat and spices. Rice vermicelli is often referred to as rice stick vermicelli and comes in different sizes.
Here's what you need to do: 1)
Place your noodles in a large heatproof bowl.* 2)
Pour boiling water over top of noodles to cover completely. I like to use a kettle instead of my stove. 3)
Let noodles stand according to package directions. For noodles that are 3 mm wide (pictured below), it takes about 6 minutes. 4)
Drain and rinse with cold water, drain again. This stops the cooking process and prevents the noodles from sticking together. If you are preparing these noodles in advance and find that they are sticking together, just rinse under some additional cold water.
*I like to use a kettle, but if you prefer to use your stove top, here's what you need to do for steps 1 & 2: In large pot, bring water to boil. Remove from heat; add noodles and let sit according to package directions.
Here are some of our favourite recipes featuring rice vermicelli:
Vietnamese Vermicelli with Grilled BeefVegetarian Salad RollsHanoi-Style Vermicelli Noodles with FishRice Vermicelli Salad
We polled family doctors from across the country, and they laid down the law on eight things they wish we'd do—or stop doing.
According to our panel of general practitioners, Canadians aren't always doing what they should to make the most of doctor visits—and skipping out on these crucial tactics could lead to a delay in diagnosing serious conditions. Here's what our experts say you should add to your patient checklist.
1. Stop feeling shy
Many of us hesitate to talk to our physicians about sensitive issues (think substance abuse or sexual health—or even gender identity). But honesty and openness are important, both for fostering a good doctor-patient relationship and for ensuring that you get the best care, says Dr. Laura Pripstein, medical director of the Sherbourne Health Centre in Toronto and a staff physician on the family health team. That's why it's OK to try out a doc before committing. Dr. Pripstein recommends booking an initial visit to see if your potential doctor is a good fit. "You want to see if this person seems like someone you can talk to, someone you feel comfortable with," she says. And if you don't think your doctor understands or respects your concerns, don't be afraid to find someone new. "If you feel you can't ask questions that might be embarrassing, you don't have the right provider," says Dr. Pripstein.
2. Don't come to your appointments unprepared
Get the most out of your time—and your doc's—by arriving at your appointment with a clear plan for what you want to discuss, says Dr. David Ross, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. "It's good to have patients think about their problems from when the issue began, then look at it chronologically to the present," says Dr. Ross. Making a prioritized point-form list in advance helps ensure that you don't forget anything or mix up the order of events, he says. Then, work with your doctor to address the most serious issues first.
3. Choose your family doc over the walk-in clinic whenever you can
Yes, a clinic is convenient, but what we gain in easy access, we lose in familiarity. "I think it's really valuable if people can connect with a family physician who they'll be able to see long term, rather than just looking for the quickest way to access care," says Dr. Maurianne Reade, a physician with the Manitoulin Central Family Health Team in Mindemoya and M'Chigeeng First Nation, Ont. A family doctor will know your medical history and will keep it in mind when suggesting treatment—so, for example, if you've recently taken several courses of antibiotics for a UTI, your physician will likely look for a different course of action if you come in with another infection. According to the most recent statistics, about 4.5 million Canadians don't have a regular family doctor. If that's you, contact your provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons, or check to see if your region has an online registry (Ontario has Health Care Connect, while Quebec launched a web-based family doctor finder last year). "It's important to know that we doctors are privileged to share in your stories and to help you through difficult times," says Dr. Reade.
4. Share what's happening in your life
There's a reason your doctor wants to know where you're working, if you're dating and how the kids are—and it's not just because she likes you. (Though she does, we're sure.) Physicians need a picture of their patients' lives beyond their specific health symptoms and conditions, especially when they're first getting to know you, says Dr. Stephen Wetmore, the family medicine chair at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University in London, Ont. "Doctors need to know these things to understand how your lifestyle and habits may be influencing your health," he says. So when you're talking about your exercise habits, your health history and whether you smoke, drink or use drugs, mention your employment status, family obligations and intimate relationships, too, says Dr. Wetmore.
5. Be a better googler
Doctors know you do it (hello, late-night web searches), but they would prefer you to ask about good sources of information, rather than going rogue online. They also want you to be honest about your fears if you've read something particularly upsetting. Physicians can't address your concerns or point you in the right direction if they don't know what your fingertips have been up to. "The thing we want our patients to do is ask us for the most reliable Canadian websites to go to as resources," says Dr. Heather Waters, an assistant professor of family medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton.
6. Don't think your symptoms are "no big deal"
If you've noticed you are having more headaches than usual or are sleeping more or are eating less, you might not think to tell your doctor—but you should. There's no set of rules for determining which symptoms are worthy of investigation or discussion, says Dr. Wetmore, but make a note to mention anything that is new or has changed since your last appointment. "You should bring up things like sudden weight loss or fatigue that seems excessive," he says. "It could be a sign of a larger problem, or the cause of a developing problem." Evenif it doesn't end up being serious, seeing your doctor will help ease any anxiety you might be feeling, and that's worth the visit, too.
7. Talk about what you're taking
Tell your physician about any herbal medications and alternative treatments you take, says Dr. Mel Borins, a University of Toronto associate professor and author of A Doctor's Guide to Alternative Medicine: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why. It's important for patients to share what's working for them and for doctors to be open-minded about therapies outside their own practice or traditions, he says. This is also a concern when it comes to conventional meds, especially if you're pregnant; there are only 23 medications specifically approved for use during pregnancy— yes, out of every available drug—which can leave women feeling anxious about taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs when they're expecting, says Dr. Robyn MacQuarrie, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Bridgewater, N.S. But don't stop taking your meds as soon as your pregnancy test comes back positive. "It's really important to talk to your doctor instead of stopping cold turkey," says Dr. MacQuarrie. Physicians can help you determine the risks and benefits of using different drugs, and they can let you know when the effects of not taking a medication while pregnant may be worse than taking it— which is the case with some antidepressants.
8. Avoid diagnosing yourself
You know doctors don't like it when you come in prepared with a diagnosis you've made thanks to the aforementioned Dr. Google. But do you know why? It's not because they think you're encroaching on their territory! Rather, they worry that a serious medical problem might get missed or you'll cause yourself unnecessary anxiety over something not serious. That's because not everyone has the most common symptoms of a particular condition. Plus, men, women and different ethnicities can have varying symptoms for the same problem. For instance, Dr. Reade's community has a large proportion of people with diabetes, which can affect the warning signs of cardiac disease, a major killer in Canada. Instead of the usual pain or pressure on the left side of the chest or arm, men and women with diabetes may instead have spells of profuse sweating with weakness. And, of course, women who don't have diabetes can have differing symptoms, too; sometimes, a heart attack can feel like acid reflux or come with sudden nausea, vomiting and lightheadedness. So always tell your physician if your symptoms are surprising or strange—like a headache that feels different than usual, for example. And if you're worried about a specific diagnosis, be sure to bring that up, too.
While every Canadian faces his or her own unique set of health hurdles, there are a number of ailments that have become pervasive in Canada. Though medicine has advanced over the years, our modern lifestyles have introduced a new set of health challenges. Here are some of the top health problems that Canadians face today.
"I've seen more changes this year than in the past three years," says Lisa Gittens, a tax expert at H&R Block.
Here are eight things families will want to be aware of when filling out their 2016 return.
1. Last chance on certain tax credits
The government is phasing out a handful of tax credits and focusing on larger benefits. The children's arts and fitness tax credits will be halved for the 2016 tax year, and cut completely next year, meaning families will no longer be able to defray costs for things like swimming lessons, ballet and tutoring. For post-secondary students, the education and textbook credits are being eliminated in 2017, although education amounts carried forward from previous years will still be claimable.
2. No more income splitting
Also gone is the Family Tax Cut, which lets the higher-earning spouse transfer up to $50,000 of income to the lower-earner. During the 2015 election, the Liberals promised to cut it, calling it a "tax break for the wealthy."
With the benefit gone, Gittens recommends a spousal RRSP, which allows the higher-earner to contribute to the lower-earning spouse's RRSP and claim the tax benefit. "You may have an RRSP set up, but you haven't thought about setting it up for your spouse. This is an ideal time to use that strategy," she says.
3. Changes to child benefits
The Canada Child Benefit was a signature feature of the 2016 budget, replacing the old Universal Child Care Benefit and the Canada Child Tax Benefit. It's non-taxable, so you don't have to claim it. However, in order to continue to receive the benefit, both parents must file a return, even if one doesn't generate any income, says Gittens.
Also keep in mind that the benefit started in July, so you still have to claim the taxable UCC for the first six months of the year.
4. New tax rates
New tax rates mean you may or may not be pleasantly surprised by the size of your tax bill this year. If you're in the meaty middle that earns between $45,000 and $90,000, your rate will come down to 20.5 percent from 22 percent.
"Most Canadians will be receiving more money at the end of the day than they were under the old system," says Jamie Golombek, managing director of tax and estate planning at CIBC Wealth Strategies Group.
However, high-income earners will be paying more due to a new 33 percent bracket for people earnings more than $200,000.
5. Child care expenses
Childcare costs are usually the biggest deduction available for families, says Golombek. But what many people don't realize is that it goes beyond simply daycare. If you have a nanny, you can claim that expense, but also babysitting, if it's during the day, and summer or day camp.
6. Disability tax credit and family caregiver amount
If you have family members with a disability there are certain credits that may be available to you. The Disability Tax Credit is available to people with disabilities to reduce their taxes. For children under age 18, a parent or caregiver may be able to claim the unused amount.
If you're a caregiver to a family member with physical or mental impairments, you may also be able to claim an additional $2,121, according to the Canada Revenue Agency.
7. Selling your principal residence
Selling your home has typically not been something you've had to report on your taxes, because usually Canadians don't get taxed for capital gains on their principle residence. But starting with the 2016 tax year, individuals who sold their principal residence during the year must report the sale. The government is ostensibly doing this to crack down on people who try to pass off income-generating homes as their principal residence.
8. eFile early, get your refund early
Tax deadline is April 30, but if you want to get ahead of the game, file early, before the government is inundated with last-minute returns. You can still file the old paper return, but Gittens says you'll be looking at a turnaround time of anywhere up to eight weeks, versus 10-14 days for a return filed early and electronically.